Christ Before Me, Christ Behind Me

The past few weeks have been, challenging.

So much good is in my life and yet equally we can all agree that there will always be something trying to pull you down.

Let me paint a picture for you.

I volunteer at Hillsong NYC as one of the leaders for Venue Design. This means all the signage, seasonal decor, etc is set up every week and broken down every week to make the venues we occupy feel more like home. We’ve been using this long poster box to house promotional materials, but if you know anything about the boxes shopping items come in, sometimes the weight of what you are carrying was not meant to hold all that is inside.

Hello.

But that’s a whole other sermon am I right?

The point is I saw someone try to lift that weight today and the box crumbled. Papers were everywhere and crumpled, and although the ideal thing would be to have a stronger box, sometimes you have to work with what you have.I explained the situation earlier today to my mom by saying “it’s like trying to carry a brick in a tissue box”.

That’s how it has been internally for my family the past few weeks.

For those of you who might be new to my blog and life journey, my older brother is schizophrenic. He has a kind, often simple spirit and is often mistaken for my little brother because of his temperament. When he was 21 he was diagnosed after a paranoid episode that he had never experienced before. They say mental illness strikes at that age if it is going to strike at all in a person’s life.

I both love my brother and feel like I do not know my brother.

These few weeks have reminded me of that very point.

Schizophrenia is often misunderstood in the media because so often you see people with mental illnesses villainized. Not every person is going to go totally off the deep end or endanger their life or other people’s lives. For my brother it is a matter of failing to identify fantasy or imagination from reality. It’s a confusion where he currently does not believe that our birth mother is our actual mother, it is a situation where he believes he is actually a hero in a video game he is currently playing. It’s a kind of imagination that you cannot always escape from.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Inception it reminds me of that. You go deeper and deeper into levels of dreams and after a while you feel like you can’t wake yourself up.

Some days its hard to cope with. I know I cannot save my brother. I know that he has a life ahead of him in Heaven of total health and to God be the glory for that. I am grateful that this is a promise we as a family can look forward to. However there are real human realities that you deal with as well. Sometimes that just feels like giving up. Sometimes that just feels tormented by the lies of the enemy. Sometimes you wonder why God hasn’t healed your brother. All of these things are acceptable to feel. But I was reminded at church today that my circumstances do not need to alter my convictions. My conviction is that God is good and loves my brother and while his mind might betray him our God never will.

God is behind me. God is before me.

God is likewise behind you and before you.

Let our hearts not grow weary. God is good and the things today on Earth will not hold us. We have eternity of joy as our future.

Commitment to God provokes persecution

Matthew 5 (MSG)

You’re Blessed

1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

I’ve been struggling with a co-worker. This person over the past two months has gotten progressively more and more antagonistic towards me. I don’t know what to do about it other than to turn the other cheek as best I can and to bring it up to my boss when it has crossed a professional line.

This person sits right next to me which means I have a front row seat to various accusations and insults.

Over the past month these are some things that I have been told:

  • You look fatter
  • You are trying to play democratic games in the office
  • You are prejudice towards this client because they are from the same country as me
  • You are “Mother Mary”
  • Your college isn’t that great
  • You need to learn how to obey what I say
  • You are siding with this dept just by delegating internal work
  • You are trying to get me in trouble

All of these things are false and after speaking about this to my family and friends, I am reminded that sometimes just being a Christian makes people hate you. Being good at your job makes people hate you. Being sure of who you are makes people hate you.

It’s disheartening to know that this person speaks the above lies. It’s not even the fact that they are lies that hurt. It’s more of, hey, I’m trying to do my job, and so are you. Why do you have to be so spiteful? Why am I so interesting to you that you need to make up reasons to try to start an argument with me?

I don’t post this for attention. I’m posting this as a reminder, that sometimes we forget that this is the world we live in. As Christians you are looked at like dirt, like a clown, like a total fool. Sometimes even as a women you can be looked at as if you are drama, or not truthful. I’ve experienced all of these things and they have brought a heaviness to my heart some days. I listen to an entire worship CD every day on my way to work. I meditate and pray on my commute. I cling to God because my patience is thin for these attacks. I trust God.

But it can also be exhausting to continue to fortify yourself in the midst. Or to hear the buzzing of these “bees” around you. Sometimes its not the words themselves, its just the irritation of being stung over and over.

If you are experiencing something like this in your work or at home fill in your name below and be of good cheer. I am with you. God is with you.

Mine:

Not only that—Jessica is blessed every time people put her down or throw her out or speak lies about her to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. Jessica can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you, Jessica are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

For you:

Not only that—____ is blessed every time people put ___ down or throw ___ out or speak lies about ___ to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. ___ can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that ___ are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

You’re Blessed

I have so much to catch you all up on. I’m so excited to share some things I got out of conference! After work last night I was ready to dive in but it became a situation at home and there wasn’t time. Apparently my parents had gotten into a fight, and he had gone out for several hours. Now for context where I live, with my parents, there is a large parking lot, shared by our apartment, another apartment, and two businesses. One of the businesses uses our parking lot for their fire pit, seating area, and has loud drinking parties on the weekends or really, whenever they can, which God bless them, is more often an annoyance than anything else. But for the most part, I can have my headphones on, or tv on, or whatever and before you know it, it’s over. Or I’m so tired from work that I fall asleep and the rowdy noise doesn’t affect me.

However last night, I was ready for bed. I didn’t care in the moment that I didn’t post my blog, I didn’t care that my parents had gotten into a fight (even though my mom gave me all the details), I was just emotionally and physically spent and ready to go to bed early.

I heard my dad’s car pull in, and before you know it, he was joining in with the laughter, and chanting, and whatever else was happening outside. And honestly, in that moment, it bothered me.

For those of you who are new to my blog and some of my personal life, my dad growing up was a flagrant alcoholic and drug addict. It was not peaches and cream. I spent some time of my life sleeping in other people’s houses when my parents were separated, I saw my dad drunk and rowdy, I witnessed my dad escorted out by cops, the whole deal. Luckily he is done with drugs, but on occasion he still drinks. Not always to excess but it’s not exactly something he’s given up when he has a few glasses of wine every day. You get me?

Anyway, the one business downstairs loves the drama of my household. They know our dirt, they will spy on what we’re doing i.e. tell my dad “did you know they brought a piece of furniture in yesterday”, “did you see they had shopping bags with them?”, and basically things like that where they live to get a rise out of people. Where they hope it’ll rock the boat between my parents. I chalk it up at this point to just being a Christian. Like my dad, they pretty much think it’s hilarious that we believe in Jesus and have been going to church our entire lives.

So back to last night.

My dad comes home and joins right in. I don’t know what they were saying or doing but when you’re in your late 20s and you hear your own father sounding like he’s an immature teen boy, it’s not exciting. In that moment I felt embarrassed not entirely for him, but selfishly for myself. Like, “wonderful, that’s my dad”, “wonderful that’s my dad making fun of me with our neighbors”, etc.

As I’m getting older, I think God has gifted me with partial deafness. I’m dead serious. There are times where my dad is cursing, or saying something horrible, and I literally can tune him out. I hear nothing. And I think after hearing and seeing awful things, God finally was like, “yeah, no, my daughter doesn’t need to hear that anymore”.

But from the tone of it and the chanting, even though I was in my safety net of divine deafness, I still felt some degree of nakedness and shame. Like not only was this happening, but it was outside my bedroom, and I was aware of it. I think Satan loves this. If something terrible is going to happen to a Christian, he is more than happy to give you VIP seats to the event.

I am reminded this morning of this verse in Matthew (MSG):

Matthew 5 

You’re Blessed

1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

I don’t know about you but sometimes reading that…can go one or two ways. Sometimes believe it or not it’s a comfort to know there’s not something wrong with you. People go through the same things and it’s not specific to you. But also there is the other way of, “God, this doesn’t sound like a blessing”. In the world we live in people write #blessed if they get to go on an international vacation, they #blessed if their husband surprised them with a Tiffany bracelet on their anniversary, people don’t #blessed when their dad is hanging out with drunks in your parking lot and making fun of you. Right? Haha. It’s a strange world sometimes isn’t it?

I didn’t write this to say, woe is me. I always aim to be as transparent as possible. I’ve found that in being open, you can speak into people’s darkness. I’m sure someone reading this has a similar parent, or both parents, or has mocked someone for being a Christian, or feels like they aren’t blessed because nothing is going right in their lives. But I’m realizing the less things are going right in your life, the better you are probably doing. Satan isn’t going to torment someone who isn’t fighting the fight, he’s going after those of us who are in it for the long haul.

Even though it feels disappointing, and defeating at times, I feel calm after posting this knowing that in some small way I am honoring my Father in Heaven. I was His before I was my dad’s. I was His before I was my mom’s. Be of good cheer today knowing that in your battle “all of Heaven cheers” as you honor God. You might not see me but I’m running that race alongside you.

Tuesday Inspiration 11.25.14

I have never felt so torn in my professional life. Last I wrote here on the blog I was going to take a leap of faith and accept a new job opportunity. However I was taken on an all new journey when I went to my boss to give my two-weeks notice and he matched the offer I was being given from the other company and promised me a promotion.

Here is the update I posted on my personal social media page earlier today:

Ultimately after Sunday’s sermon I have chosen to trust God and not rely on my own “vision” or what the world or my peers might think is the obvious choice. The sermon discussed two blind men in the Bible (Matthew 20) and how they called out to Jesus. They couldn’t see it was Him but they knew it was Him. And Jesus asked them “What do you want me to do for you?” and when they asked for sight He gave it to them. In much of the same way I feel like I am two people. I’m the employee at [Current Company] and the prospective employee of a corporate giant, [Prospective Company]. I don’t know which was better and could weigh the pros of both. I toiled a lot over this. I felt ashamed for signing an offer and possibly changing my mind. I felt worried about leaving a place I love for the unknown. I went back and forth and back and forth. And ultimately decided that I want to be the kind of person that makes the unpopular choice. That goes for the underdog. That goes with my heart and you all know how much I love the people I work with now. But of course part of you feels foolish at the same time for turning down a huge, rich, corporation. I was ready to make my decision and found out the Hiring Manager in HR was out of the office today. Rather than waste any more time, although it was not ideal, I decided to leave him a voice-mail and a corresponding e-mail. I pray that this ends any anxiety now that I’ve made a choice. Here is what I wrote and thank you all for your prayers and listening to my worries about this whole situation:

“I tried to call your office line in the hopes that you had an OOO number to reach you but unfortunately I think you are probably on your way somewhere for Thanksgiving.

I just wanted to keep you up to speed in the decision making process after my conversation with the CEO here at [Current Company]–which as you may recall—was when I called you on Friday. I’ve spent the past four days truly grueling over the conversation with him and my decision to accept the position at [Prospective Company] and feeling torn between the two. To be completely honest as I mentioned on Friday it was a very hard conversation to have with my CEO and I was 100% prepared to give my two-weeks notice and start with [Prospective Company]. The conversation ended up developing into one I was not expecting and we spent over two hours in his office discussing why he needed me to stay and his plans for me to better the company as a whole..

I just want to take the time from the bottom of my heart to thank you so much for offering me the position of [Prospective Position] at [Prospective Company]. It has been an absolute pleasure speaking with you, and [names withheld] and learning more about your company. It was undoubtedly an easy decision at the time to accept such a wonderful opportunity.

Unfortunately, after giving a great deal of thought to this over the weekend, I have decided that it is in my long-term best interest, as well as [Current Company]’s, to turn down your gracious job offer. I have recently decided to remain here at [Current Company] because I believe the CEO’s desire to elevate my position and incorporate me into a lot of the business development and decision-making processes will ultimately be a better fit long-term for my abilities and skill set. It was quite a shocking thing to be offered full-reign of particular developments and projects considering I have been here for such a short time, but rewarding at the same time to know how much faith they have in my work here. I have the utmost respect for their counter-offer and it has caused me to analyze and re-evaluate what kind of employee and leader I hope to be and ultimately their guidance in this new venture here at [Current Company] has confirmed my decision to stay.

I am so sorry for any inconvenience my decision may cause since you may have told other prospective interviewees that the position was filled and thus I was hoping to be able to speak to you this morning over the phone. Words cannot express the gratitude I have for all the time you have invested in speaking with me, answering any questions, and listening to my situation once I met with my CEO on Friday.

I continue to be impressed with all of the new developments and industry recognition [Prospective Company] continually receives and particularly with the great work the team is planning to roll out with [confidential information] through [Current Company]. Ultimately it comes down to the tough decision to turn down your generous offer, for the equally generous offer from [Current Company] in desiring to keep me here.

I sincerely hope you go not feel any ill-will towards this decision I have made and that both our companies can continue to deliver great work through our partnership together.

I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

It’s scary to post this. It’s scary to think that this company could find my blog. All of these things are fears. All of these things are anxious thoughts. However I’m choosing to be bold. I’m choosing to believe in the wake of my fears that somehow this is still from God. That I can declare over my anxieties that God is bigger than any corporation. That no matter what decision I make or don’t make, God’s plan for my life will be fulfilled. The good news is..I can’t blow this. I can’t ruin my life. I can choose to refresh my spirit in knowing that His hand is still on me.

Have you ever had to make a tough decision? I’d love to hear in the comments. I pray that if you are facing a tough call today that you choose the option that will make you into the person you believe God wants you to be–even if it is an unpopular choice among your peers.

Found on quotediary.me

For God’s Glory

Excerpt from John 9

True Blindness

1-2 Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”

3-5 Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.”

I love this video. So often people can look at people with disabilities or handicaps and be filled with pity. The good thing though is God does not look at these people with pity. God can do anything through anyone and they are not at a disadvantage. If anything God’s light dwells even more so in these people not because He favors them but because it is in what people see as “lacking” that God’s glory can shine even more unexpectedly. This artist knows who He is. He knows his art and ability comes from God. Just because man sees him as a person with cerebral palsy doesn’t mean God sees Him that way. He is a child of the Most High and has been gifted. Just as God creates art in the sky, in nature, or in His creation, Paul creates art through his typewriter. God has not punished Paul with a disability. God does not work that way. God creates beauty out of everything.

Tuesday Inspiration 10.28.14

Sometimes it can be hard to do daily tasks and jobs that aren’t what we want to do or acknowledged. It’s important to keep things in perspective though. Ultimately we need to remember that even Christ wasn’t showy. Not everyone acknowledged Him and He deserved to be. As Christians we need to realize that our flesh desires to be noticed but spiritually we need to always remember that we are actually meant to be #2.

An excerpt from Colossians 3 MSG:

3-4 Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.

Judah Smith 10/17/14 “Home Sweet Home”

I was just feeling heavy-hearted. I feel like this once in a while and literally my internal voice will say to me “I want to go home”. It sometimes feels childlike to say that. Like I’m at work. Or I’m out doing something and for whatever reason I just want to go home. I was remembering today that one of the teachings during the Hillsong Conference touched on this very topic. I recorded the message for later use while listening to it live and today decided to listen to it again at my desk during my day at work. Just listening to Judah’s voice made me happy. It reminded me of the great time of preaching and worship during those three nights and two days. I often feel this way after events such as this and even after Sunday services at church. I just want to be in that place forever. I don’t want to go back into my stress or my “real life” during the week. I want to dwell there in those moments 24/7.

Have you ever felt this way?

I think it often comes when I am overwhelmed, non-confrontational, and just overall not in a happy place. We all go through times like this when we’d much rather be at home with the kids, or in bed, or snuggling up by a fireplace watching movies. Whatever your “home” image looks like. But today it dawned on me that what I really actually want is to be at peace, at home, with Jesus. Sometimes I just want to feel safe. I want to re-calibrate. I want to refuel. After listening to this message I don’t feel 100% night and day but I certainly feel better than I did before.

I hope this encourages you:

Major Points from “Home Sweet Home”:

  • Is my soul healthy? Is my soul well? Is it well with your soul?
  • Scripture says “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” – 3 John 1:2 ESV
  • God is concerned with the inside far more than the outside–this is why the mind, soul, heart, and spirit are mentioned so much in the Bible.
  • Judah travels a lot and hates traveling and loves the feeling of relaxation and the natural exhale you let out when you are finally back home. This is something about being home because is your space and your sanctuary. You need to go home and you need to visit home often. People were designed to have homes – if you do not visit your home often it affects your personality, your emotions, and your overall health.
  • When was the last time my soul was home? How is my soul? In order to find out we have to go back to Creation.
  • Man was created as a shell/deactivated. When Adam was created there was no mention that he was human, alive, or living until he receives the breath of God. Genesis 2:7 KJV “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
  • When you speak about your soul you are simultaeously speaking about the breath of God. We are all living on borrowed breath. Therefore your soul is the breath of God.
  • To be truly human we must use the breath He gave us and use it to bring Him praise–all of creation is a theater for God’s glory
  • All of creation yearns for Jesus’s return (hills, lakes, trees, etc) all understand they exist to worship God. The trees get it. Their limbs shake in excitement waiting for Him to come. They can’t wait. (This is a wild thought isn’t it?)
  • In scripture Jesus is told that he must make people stop praising Him. Jesus replies that even if a human won’t praise me–even the rocks and trees will grow hands and mouths to praise me.
  • Luke 19:37-38 “Right at the crest, where Mount Olives begins its descent, the whole crowd of disciples burst into enthusiastic praise over all the mighty works they had witnessed:

    Blessed is he who comes,
        the king in God’s name!
    All’s well in heaven!
        Glory in the high places!

    39 Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, “Teacher, get your disciples under control!” But he said, “If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise.”

  •  Psalm 103 has 22 verses which is equivalent to 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet..it’s the A-Z of life–beginning and ending with “bless the Lord”
  • The Hebrew mind would have read the Psalm and instead of merely understanding it to say praise the Lord oh my soul they would recognize that it is really saying “praise the Lord oh my breath”
  • Judah’s friend is a recent follower of Jesus. Was convinced of Jesus being the real deal when he read the book of John after seeing someone else was reading that book. He explained his experience as follows “it was like coming home” something within him knew this was home. This book was home. What it was saying was home.
  • You can go home even when you’re not physically in your home. This can be through reading the Bible, singing a song, listening to a song, anything that brings your soul home no matter where you are physically.
  • Concluding story of Mary and Martha—“Mary has chosen the better thing.” Perfect illustration because it takes place in a house. Mary is literally home but she is at home in Jesus’s presence. Luke 10:42 shows Jesus addressing the condition of Martha’s soul: “But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

So today no matter where you are, does your soul need to go home? I encourage you to take a moment whether it be in your bedroom, in a public bathroom, in a dressing room, or on your lunch break to visit home. Give rest to your weary soul. I can guarantee you will feel more rested than when you started.

Photo Credit: https://www.premierproductions.com/tour/hillsong-conference-usa-2014/new-york-city-ny